Frances (goldy_dollar) wrote in the_altverse,

1x12: Ten Minutes (1/3)

Title: Ten Minutes (1/3)
Authors: goldy_dollar and _thirty2flavors
Pairing: Ten II/Rose
Summary: Hoping to prove to the Doctor that she can handle herself, Rose strikes out on her own and ends up trapped in a room with a bomb.
Rating: PG
A/N: Thanks to shinyopals for the beta.
Excerpt: Rose was in the same room as a high-tech alien bomb and five innocent people, and he was stuck in a van waiting for a light to change.

Episode 12 of the the_altverse following Dead Reckoning
Virtual Series Masterlist

A drop of sweat trickled down the slope of Rose’s nose before sliding off her chin. The day was unusually warm and humid for London, and Rose—who was once again used to dealing with any climate in all of time and space—felt like she had never landed in a more foreign place.

Of course, London didn’t often welcome her back with an alien bomb capable of destroying an entire building—and a row of innocent people chained to the wall about to be taken out with it.

On her headset, the Doctor was shouting in an increasingly louder voice, “Rose? Rose, are you there? Rose, can you hear me? ROSE?”

The rest of her small extraction team exchanged a look. Rose took a deep breath before answering. “I’m here,” she said slowly. “We’ve found it. It’s in the basement of the factory.”

***

The Doctor crouched in the backseat of the van as it sped through the twists and turns of London’s narrow streets. In front, Rose’s former Torchwood colleagues were wearing matching grim expressions. The one in the passenger seat—Don, David, Darien, something that started with “D”—hollered choice phrases through the open window at nearby pedestrians who got in their way.

The Doctor tuned him out as he shouted into his mobile, pressing his hand to his other ear. “Rose? Rose, are you there?” he yelled. “Rose, can you hear me? ROSE?”

There was a long second that felt like an eternity and then her voice answered. “I’m here,” she said steadily, but he could detect a current of fear underneath it. “We’ve found it. It’s in the basement of the factory.”

For a second, the rest of the world faded away into silence as Rose’s words echoed through him. A chill started down his spine and then to the rest of his body. He ducked his head, trying to find some semblance of privacy behind the front seat.

Let’s split up, she’d said, back at the Torchwood office. We’ll cover more ground that way.

His first instincts had been to say “no” and to insist they stick together, but then she had looked at him. It had felt like a test. Say “no” and it would just prove to her all over again that he couldn’t trust her to keep herself safe.

Faced with the look in her eyes, he found himself agreeing. After all, they’d thought it was only a hoax—someone playing games with them.

Pete Tyler explained the situation after he called them back to Earth. He’d received an untraceable text on his mobile from an unidentified Bob Charila, warning him that a bomb had been planted somewhere in London. Charila would reveal the approximate time and location of the bomb, but only on the condition that Torchwood called the Doctor and Rose back to Earth.

Pete had no choice but to follow Bob’s instructions. The Doctor and Rose had arrived only seconds after he’d hung up the phone.

The fact that this Bob Charila was keeping tabs on them was worrying, but the truly unnerving part was that he’d somehow known they were back. Was this the man who had been targeting them? The TARDIS had barely been parked for five minutes when Pete had received an updated text, giving him a time and a place for the bomb.

Two places, the Doctor mentally corrected himself. One for each of them.

The Doctor’s first instinct was to begin investigating the identity of the mysterious Bob, but they’d had no choice but to go after the bombs. He’d chosen to investigate St. Paul’s Cathedral—it was an easy target, right in the heart of London. Hit St. Paul’s and the destruction would be felt through the rest of the country.

Torchwood was already in the process of evacuating when he arrived, but even as he pounded through the Church, he’d somehow sensed he was in the wrong place. It wasn’t in the Cathedral—it wasn’t his target. The bomb was in the East End, in the abandoned factory.

It would hit Rose.

He had jumped into the nearest Torchwood van but even as they sped through London and he dialled Rose’s number with shaking fingers, he had somehow known he wouldn’t get there fast enough.

***

Rose tried to hide how badly her hands were shaking by folding her arms across her chest. Her Torchwood team watched her silently, guns clutched to their chests. The innocent people were bound to the wall with thick chains, driven into the ground with metal spikes at their feet. There were five of them, each one of them with a gag in their mouth. They were sweating and dehydrated, but otherwise seemed unharmed.

There was one girl with long dark hair, maybe eight or nine, who watched Rose with wide, unblinking eyes. The woman next to her had to be her mother—she was crying silent tears, her gaze snapping from the bomb and back to her daughter.

“Rose?” came the Doctor’s voice. “What is it, what did you find?”

“It’s a bomb,” she said. “Just like he said.”

Swallowing hard, she turned away from the people, instead focusing on the bomb. Though she’d had some basic training in disarming bombs when she first joined Torchwood, the bomb itself was like nothing she had ever come across. It was large and curved in the middle like a basin—it was translucent but pulsed green as if ticking down the seconds. There were large spikes protruding from opposite ends and Rose gave the spikes a wide berth, somehow sensing that it would be a good idea to avoid them.

“It’s alien,” she continued, into the phone. “I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

She could hear the panic in the Doctor’s voice, but all he said was, “Describe it to me.”

She did and he kept eerily silent until she was finished. Then, his voice sounding sharp, he murmured, “That.... that is fearsome technology. That’s years ahead of time. But how did it get here—on Earth?”

Rose really didn’t care about that at the moment. “Doctor, can I stop it?”

There was a moment before he answered. “I hope so.”

“Good ‘cos he left us a timer. We’ve got another ten minutes.”

There was a stunned silence on the other side of the phone, but then the Doctor said, his voice now rising, “Rose, get out. Get out right now.”

His voice was so loud that some of her team turned to look at her with pale faces. Jeremy, the youngest on the mission, was sweating so hard that he was having trouble holding onto his gun.

Rose kept her voice steady. “Can’t,” she said. She almost smiled. “He left behind five innocent people, Doctor. I’m not leaving. Not until they’re safe.”

There was a pause and then he said, now sounding desperate, “I’m on my way—I can disarm the bomb and get them out, but Rose, please, you have to—”

She felt her resolve weakening at the desperation in his voice. A part of her wanted to tell him that she would do as he asked—and save him the heartbreak of being so far away when she was in danger. But a larger part of her felt a surge of defiance. She had a chance to finally prove to him once and for all that she could look out for herself and that he couldn’t always be there to swoop in and rescue her.

“Doctor,” she said softly. He heard the warning in her voice and went so silent that the only sound she could hear was the rapid pant of his breathing.

Ignoring him for a second, Rose turned to the rest of her team. One step at a time, she thought. She had to be strong and keep her head—for them if nothing else. Them, and the innocents strung up against the wall.

“Torchwood is on their way,” Rose said. “They’ll be combing the perimeter for anyone else in the area, but no one is to enter the building until the bomb has been neutralized.”

She looked at each member of her team in turn—Michelle, who she had easily known the longest, Jeremy, pasty faced and fumbling with his gun, and Daniel, eyes steely with determination but his red hair standing out in contrast to his abnormally pale face.

“This is what we’re going to do,” Rose said. “Getting these people out and to safety are our priority, understand?” They nodded. “You get them unchained—I don’t care how, but you do it, and you get them out of here. Only then will we think about leaving ourselves.”

They nodded again. Rose felt compelled to add, “I’ll be working with the Doctor to turn off the bomb. I will get you out of here.” Her eyes flicked to the girl and her mum. “All of you.”

***

The Doctor listened to Rose address her team as the van pulled to a stop at a red light. He squeezed his eyes shut, his free hand gripping his hair. He felt nauseous, and he took several deep breaths as he struggled to calm down. Rose was in the same room as a high-tech alien bomb. Rose was in the same room as a high-tech alien bomb and five innocent people. Rose was in the same room as a high-tech alien bomb and five innocent people, and he was stuck in a van waiting for a light to change.

Whoever Bob Charila was, he’d done a very good job orchestrating a situation the Doctor found nightmarish.

The Doctor leaned his head back against the seat, listening as Rose tried to reassure those around her. It would be pointless to argue any further, he knew. If there were innocent people in danger there was no way he could convince her to leave them behind, and even disregarding that, he was certain Rose would see this as an opportunity to prove herself--and to test him.

He wished she wouldn’t. Not like this. It was too dangerous. And if something happened to her, here, now, while he was stuck in a van on the other side of town...

He scrubbed his face with one hand and swallowed. “Rose,” he said quietly, doing his best to keep the fear and frustration out of his voice. “Rose, we’ve got to start working on the bomb. There isn’t time.”

“Right.” He heard her suck in a breath, then put on a tone of false bravado. “Okay. All right, genius, tell me what I should do.”

The Doctor pinched the bridge of his nose, willing his mind to work faster. A basin, she’d said. Translucent but pulsed green--two giant spikes.

“That pulsing noise, Rose, that’s not the time clicking down. A bomb like this, it’s meant to react to movement. It’s designed to defend itself against the slightest interference.”

Rose took that in. “So I can’t touch it.”

“No.”

“Or just.... pick it up and chuck it out the window,” she continued, voice tight and high like she was making an effort to keep it from shaking. “That would be bad, yeah?”

“Very bad.” The Doctor closed his eyes. “I’m on my way, Rose.”

“You’re stuck in traffic,” she hissed. “Now tell me what I have to do.”

The light changed and the van sped off again, the Doctor thrown uncomfortably against the door. He winced and said, “I don’t.... I would have to scan it with the sonic screwdriver.”

There was a disbelieving pause and then she said, “You don’t know.”

“Rose, if I get it wrong, you and five innocent people will die. Oddly enough, it’s difficult to think straight when your wife is trapped in a room with a ticking bomb.”

He sounded harsher than he meant to and Rose sucked in a sharp breath of air. Voice now obviously shaking, she said, “If this is too much for you, I could.... I could try someone else - Malcolm in explosives, he--”

“No, no, I’m sorry.” One mistake and she’s dead, his brain taunted him. And it would be his fault. “Just - just hold on one second...”

Buying himself a few seconds to think, he stuck his head between the two front seats. Don or David or Darien idly tapped his gun against his knee out of sheer nervous energy. Next to him, the driver gripped the steering wheel with white hands, his mouth drawn into a sharp line.

The Doctor hesitated and then said, “We need to get there faster. She only has ten minutes.” He paused. “Nine minutes.”

Don-David-Darien stopped tapping his gun and looked over at the Doctor. There was a bead of sweat collecting in the middle of his forehead. “If anyone can handle disarming an alien bomb, it’s Tyler,” he said.

The Doctor knew the man was only trying to reassure him, but he bit back a retort about how Rose was his wife and he had a pretty good idea of how capable she was, thank you very much. “Thank you,” he only said stiffly.

The driver’s foot pressed down on the gas and he swerved hard around a man on a bicycle. “I’ll get us there, Doctor,” he said. “Just hold on to something.”

“Right,” the Doctor said. He scrambled back into the backseat as the van careened around the corner and pressed the mobile to his ear again. “Rose, listen to me,” he said, putting as much confidence in his voice as he could muster. “You can’t touch it, but you can use sound.”

*****

Rose’s t-shirt was soaked with sweat. Her eyes drifted over to the people chained to the wall. Her team had removed their gags, but they all looked pale and weak. One heavyset man in his late 50s was barely conscious, his eyes rolling back into his head.

As soon as their gags were removed, they all began speaking at once, most of them demanding to know what was happening and when they’d be released. Jeremy paced around the basement room, stopping to hack at their chains with the butt of his gun and grunting in frustration. Michelle and Daniel had disappeared to search the nearby proximity for anything that could be capable of cutting through metal but Rose didn’t have very high hopes that Bob Charila would have left anything behind that would be that helpful.

What they needed was a proper extraction team with proper tools. No, she corrected herself, what they really needed was more time. With the building set to blow in nine minutes, she couldn’t in good faith risk putting more people in danger.

Jeremy’s movements became sporadic and ineffectual. Finally, he reared up and yelled, “SHUT UP! JUST..... SHUT UP.”

The mum of the girl let out a great, heaving sob, “Please just free my daughter. Please,” she begged.

“I’m trying!” said Jeremy, red faced and panting, his chest heaving up and down. “Do you think I want to be here, too? Do you think this is my idea of a relaxing afternoon? Do you-”

“That’s enough,” said Rose. She placed one hand on Jeremy’s shoulder and spoke in low, soothing tones. “Go help Michelle and Daniel. We can’t do anything without proper tools.”

Jeremy shook his head. “It’s not possible,” he said, voice cracking. “We’re going to die in here with them, Rose. We should just lea--”

“Go and help Michelle and Daniel,” Rose repeated firmly.

For a second Jeremy looked like he might continue to argue and then, hunching his shoulders, he slumped out to find them. Rose breathed a sigh of relief when he was gone.

She crouched down in front of the girl. “Hello,” she said. “What’s your name?”

“Sarita,” said the girl, watching Rose with wide and frightened eyes. She was missing two front teeth and her long dark hair fell below her shoulders.

“That’s a pretty name,” said. “My name’s Rose.” She inclined her head. “Is that your mum?”

Sarita nodded.

Rose smiled reassuringly. “Listen to me, Sarita, I’m going to get you out of here. I promise. But I need you to be brave for your mum and everyone else. Show ‘em that you know we’re going to be okay. Can you do that?”

Sarita nodded again, some of the fear fading from her eyes. She looked like she had been gifted with a task of the utmost importance. Rose touched the girl on the shoulder and then stood up, looking around.

One of the captives, a young white man in his mid-20s, caught Rose’s eyes. He had a tattoo of a serpent on his neck and glared at her fiercely. “Torchwood,” he spat, “all the taxes we pay for you to keep us safe and this is the best we get. One rich heiress on a headset.”

Heat rose in Rose’s face but before she could response, an older black woman snorted and said, “As if the likes of you pay taxes.”

“What are you trying to say, lady?” shot back tattoo man.

“Everyone shut up!” said Rose. “If Sarita can keep it together, so can the rest of you. You’re adults.” She gave the tattoo man a long, hard stare. “For the record, this is the best Torchwood has to offer. And if you don’t like that, if you wish we were someone else, that’s too bad ‘cos there is no one else coming. But you should know, we are putting our lives on the line for you. And I am not leaving this building until you do. Do you understand that?”

The tattoo man looked away, but Rose stepped closer to him, keeping her eyes on his face until he looked at her again.

“Do you,” she said slowly, “understand that?” Tattoo man nodded and Rose set her jaw. “Good.”

Over her phone, the Doctor’s voice said, “Rose, listen to me. You can’t touch it, but you can use sound.”

“Sound?” Rose said doubtfully.

“Well, sound vibrations.” He paused and in the background Rose heard the van’s horn go off. The Doctor sounded a little more harried when he said, “It should disrupt the bomb’s frequency. Like pulling out the right wire.”

“Okay,” Rose said, “what sort of sound do I have to make?”

“Well--” he began and his tone of voice made her heart sink. Right away she could tell that he wasn’t at all certain of his theory or even what the next step would be. He was hesitating and he was scared and he was trying to hide it from her.

Keep him talking, she thought. “A loud noise? Soft? Or something sort of... steady?”

“I don’t - you’d have to take some readings on the sonic screwdriver -”

“I haven’t got a sonic screwdriver,” Rose pointed out reasonably. “I could get these people out if I did, but I don’t. So we’re just going to have to think of something else.”

“What is it?” called Sarita’s mum, desperately pulling against her bonds. “What’s he saying?”

“Hold on a sec.” Rose muffled the voice piece of her headset with her free hand and said, “He’s trying to help.”

She smiled reassuringly but none of the prisoners smiled back. Turning around, she faced the bomb and in a quiet voice, she said, “Eight minutes.”

“I know,” said the Doctor, just as quietly. “I’m sorry.”

He sounded like he was making a physical effort to hold himself together. Rose squeezed her eyes shut, feeling her own heart flutter in her chest. It was awful trying to work through this with him and not be able to touch him or comfort him. They were both letting their emotions get in the way of the problem.

Right now, he was too much of a distraction.

“I’m going to hang up the phone,” she murmured.

“Rose, no--”

“Neither of us are thinking straight right now,” she said. “Take a few minutes to think it through, yeah? Talk it over with those blokes in the van, you know how you like the sound of your own voice.”

“Talking to you helps.”

“No, it’s not. Not right now.” She took a breath. “And Doctor, listen - if you can’t... if you can’t think of anything.... that’s not your fault. And we’ll get back in touch, yeah?” Her legs shook as she struggled to finish and it took all her strength to stay on her feet. “We’ll say a proper goodbye.”

Before he could respond, Rose turned off her headset, heart hammering inside of her. She stood still another few minutes, breathing deeply and trying to gather herself back under control. Heavy tears pressed down against her eyes.

She didn’t want to die here—not like this, trapped in a basement of a factory with a bomb planted by some bloke who thought he was playing a joke on them. And she especially didn’t want to die before seeing the Doctor again one last time.

Footsteps entered the basement behind her and she turned around to find her team, grateful for the timely distraction. Her heart sunk when she saw that they were empty-handed.

Already knowing the answer, Rose said, “Anything?”

Michelle looked grim but then she smiled. “Oh, yeah.” She lifted her hand, revealing a rusted nail, a piece of twine, and what looked like half a hair clip. “We don’t have bolt-cutters, but we do have me. I’m going to pick their locks.”

Rose stared at her, momentarily speechless. Over Michelle’s head, Daniel and Jeremy exchanged a smug look. “Oh, Michelle, that is brilliant.” She closed the distance between them and wrapped her friend in a tight hug. “Best team in the universe. Just like I said.”

Rose’s spirits felt buoyed as she pulled away. Maybe they would all make it out after all.

She glanced back at the timer. Seven minutes.

***

For a moment the Doctor sat frozen, the mobile still pressed to his ear, listening to the silence on the other end of the line, replaying Rose’s words over and over in his head.

We’ll say a proper goodbye.

For a moment he considered calling her back. If there were less than eight minutes left in Rose Tyler’s life he wanted to spend every second of them listening to her voice. But her voice had been wobbling when she spoke, and he knew that maybe this was Rose’s way of coping. Maybe she didn’t want to talk to him. Maybe it was too hard. With a shaking hand he lowered the phone and finally snapped it shut. He took a couple shallow breaths and focused his attention on not chucking the mobile out the window.

From the front seat, Don-David-Darien glanced backwards, looking cautiously at the Doctor. “Everything... all right?”

“All right? Is everything all right?” the Doctor snarled. “There are five innocent people chained in a room with a high-tech bomb I don’t know how to disarm, and my wife has just promised me she’ll call back in about seven minutes so we can say a nice goodbye before she dies. Oh, yeah, I’d say everything is fantastic.”

Looking thoroughly cowed, Don-David-Darien stared at his hands.

The Doctor turned his attention to the driver. “We need to go faster. I can help them, I can, but not from the back of this van.”

The driver spun the wheel to make a hard right turn. “We’re going as fast as we can.”

It’s not fast enough! If we don’t get there in the next couple minutes, people will die, are we clear on that?”

“Yeah,” said the driver, “and if I crash this van, we won’t be getting there at all. You need to calm down.”

The Doctor opened his mouth, ready to explain in great detail precisely why he had no intention of calming down, but Don-David-Darien spoke first. “Doctor, Tyler and her team... they’re not chained to the building. Even if they can’t save those people...” he paused, looking apologetic for what he’d just said, “...they can still get out. She’ll be okay.”

The Doctor stared at him. “Rose would never leave those people.”

Don-David-Darien hesitated, looking like he wanted to argue, but then he seemed to think better of it and gave a helpless shrug.

The Doctor sank back against his seat, the anger gone as quick as it’d come, replaced once more by panic and a deep sense of failure. A part of him desperately wanted to take solace in what Don-David-Darien was saying, but he knew Rose Tyler, knew the depths of her compassion, and he knew that she would do everything in her power to keep her promise to those people.

Even if that amounted to nothing less than dying with them.

Rose had hung up the phone because she was worried that he was too emotional to think straight. But the Doctor’s mind was working as well as it always did. He knew that the style of bomb she was faced with was customizable, and that without examining it himself he could do no better than blindly guess what frequency would disarm it. He knew the wrong frequency could detonate it. He knew an explosion that powerful in the basement of a building could bring down the whole structure, burying Rose and the others in the rubble. He knew precisely how long Rose and the others had left to live -- six minutes, thirty seconds. He knew the shortest distance from the van to the factory, knew the exact speed they were going, and knew they wouldn’t get there in time.

And he knew that if he was there -- or if he’d refused to split up, or if he’d chosen to inspect the factory himself, or if he’d bothered to give Rose a sonic screwdriver -- everything would be fine. But he hadn’t, and it wasn’t, and in six minutes and thirty seconds when Rose died, he would know who to blame.

Not your fault, Rose had said.

She was wrong. It always was.

The Doctor buried his face in his hands and tried not to cry.

Chapter Two
Tags: earth, series 1
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